Here is your guide to everything you need to know about the Cameron Highlands!
Where to stay in Cameron Highlands?
There are two places to stay in Cameron Highlands: Tanah Rata and Brinchang.
Tanah Rate is where there are a few old, heritage buildings and the main bus station. While Brinchang has a night market at weekends. You can walk between the two and it is about a 50 minute walk. Whichever location you choose to base yourself make sure you are walking distance to the centre ie. Resturants as there are not many taxis around (unless you have a hire car). I personally prefer Tanah Rata due to the bus station, great restaurants and tour companies around.
Planters Hotel: This basic hotel is great if you want somewhere central but are still on a budget ( yet want something more comfortable than a hostel!).
BB Inn Hotel: Very basic hotel, central location
Ye Olde Smokehouse: For some heritage charm then stay at this mock-Tudor house where you can get a true sense for Cameron Highlands when it was a remote weekend retreat.
Copthorne Cameron Highlands: This is perfect if you want a resort style accommodation ( pool, spa) but is probably best if you have your own transport.
If you want a hostel: I have stayed in Daniels Lodge. This has mixed reviews online but for the price I have paid I have always found it adequate. Looking online it seems to have been taken over by new management and can be booked through hostelbookers but try emailing them directly as the website prices quoted are cheaper: http://www.daniels.cameronhighlands.com/ ( in addition, hostelbookers makes you stay two nights where as I have stayed one night before).
How to get to Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur?
There are buses every hour from Kuala Lumpur with the journey taking between 4-5 hours if there is no obstruction. During rainy season it can take longer due to landslides on the road. You can use this website to book: http://www.easybook.com/
You can also hire taxis in KL to take you to Cameron Highlands there and back in a day ( takes 2 hours in a car) but be cautious as several taxi drivers I have spoken to refuse to drive up to Cameron Highlands due to the narrow and windy road.
Or you can hire a car and drive up to the Highlands but as mentioned before the road is windy and narrow and many locals refuse to drive it. So take your time and avoid when there is bad weather.
Where to go after Cameron Highlands?
Ipoh: the nearest next destination taking 2 hours 30 minutes. Ipoh is famous for its food, street art and heritage buildings. This is one of Malaysia most underrated destination.
Perhentian Islands (Kuala Besut fery port): A 6 hour drive will take you to these islands which are famous for the diving and snorkelling.
Penang: In 4 hours you can go to Georgetown the UNESCO heritage city.
Taman Negara: This is a 7 hour journey away and here is the best example of rainforest in mainland Malaysia. Check out this guide for more information
To take a plane you would need to go back to KL or head to Ipoh or Penang.
How to get around Cameron Highlands?
Taxi: you won’t be able to flag many taxis down from the road so make sure you have a number or get you can hire them from the bus station in Tanah Rata. Taxis can be hired for the whole day at RM25 an hour which isn’t a bad idea if there are a a few of you.
Buses: There are no buses to local attractions
Tours: The easiest and cheapest way to see the attractions
Hitchhiking: This isn’t common in Malaysia though it can be done but it may take a while to get a lift.
Walking: Some sites are walkable distance but most are spread out.
Hire a car: You will need to do this in your previous destination but can be useful to allow you to explore the area on your own terms.
Where to eat in Cameron Highlands?
Cameron Highlands is famous for steamboat. You get a bowl of chicken and/or spicy soup and you cook raw meat, veg, fish in it. I have used the May Flower in Tanah Rata and the staff are helpful in showing you how it is done on your first attempt.
Stawberries: Enjoy strawberry juice, cake, tarts, scones- strawberries can be found everywhere!
Indian: There is some excellent Indian cuisine on offer. Try Restoran Sri Brinchang in Tanah Rata at night.
Afternoon tea: There are plenty of places that serve scones (a relic from when Cameron Highland was a Highland retreat). If you put “the best places to put scones in Cameron Highlands” into Google many places claim they have the best scones. Let me know where you would suggest!
Ye Olde Smokehouse: If you have a larger budget then consider this beautiful house. The meals are more expensive but the location is worth it.
When to go to Cameron Highlands?
You can visit Cameron Highlands all year round. During monsoon season (November-March) then there can be landslides on the road making the journey to and from longer and in addition, sites such as the Mossy Forest can be muddy. In Malaysia generally, rain starts in the afternoon so you have the morning to explore.
Weekends and public holidays are very busy in Cameron Highlands due to being only a few hours from KL and the cooler climate. Traffic can be very heavy and it can take a long time to get from one attraction to the other. Weekdays are quieter.
What to do in Cameron Highlands?
Around Tanah Rata and Brinchang you will find numerous tour agencies that offer a range of packages. Prices and content are generally the same. This is the easiest way to see the sights in Cameron Highlands as there is a lack of public transport in the area. The tours allow you to see the sights without the worry of dealing with the traffic and difficult roads while suiting every budget and time constraint. If you want a more tailored tour then consider hiring a taxi and paying by the hour.
Activities available on the different tours:
Tea plantation: the BOH tea plantation is what has made Cameron Highlands famous. You can visit the original factory, museum and café. On Mondays the factory is not working but you can still view inside and the café and museum are open. Try and get here early as it can get busy during the day as the road in and out is narrow and gets congested early.
Butterfly Garden: a small free-flying butterfly cage alongside reptiles and insects.
Farms: Due to the cooler climate Cameron Highlands is a perfect environment for agriculture and you can visit farms for watercress, orange, chrysanthemum etc.
Time Tunnel: This is a small museum by a local who has displayed his collections of memorabilia of life in Cameron Highlands over the last 100 years.
Mossy Forest: This is a very unique ecosystem with pitcher plants, wild orchids and ferns.
Gunnang Brinchang: the tallest mountain in Cameron Highlands at 2300m which on clear days provides excellent views over the area. You can drive to the peak but you will need to be in a 4×4.
Waterfall: You can swim in this waterfall and is refreshing after trekking.
Rafflesia Flower: the largest flower in the world can only be found in a few spots and Cameron Highlands is one of those. You can’t guarantee a flower will be open during your visit and I still haven’t had a firm answer to whether there is a period of the year with an increased chance of seeing them.
Orang Asli Village: Orang Asli is the name for the tribes that live in Malaysia and were the original settlers. Different regions in Malaysia have different Orang Asli groups with different customs.
Jungle Trekking: The jungle in Cameron Highlands has different vegetation compared to Taman Negara and Borneo.
(There are several strawberry farms, rose gardens etc. and if you are driving yourself choose which ever one suits you schedule as they are all similar)
Tanah Rata: There isn’t much to see in this small town as most of the old buildings have been lost. Wander up to the old school which provides a view over the town and is one of the oldest buildings still standing. There are plenty of cafes around where you can sit back with a scone or cake and relax.
Brinchang: This town is famous for its night market on the weekends and public holidays. Traffic can get congested during the night market so leave plenty of time
Hiking: There are numerous hikes around Cameron Highlands. Some are mentioned in Lonely Planet ( and other guide books) or ask at your accommodation for advice. Due to weather some paths become inaccessible so always check beforehand and there is limited mobile phone signal in the area so please take precautions before starting any hikes.
Day trips: You can day trip to Ipoh from Cameron Highlands or local caves to go white-water rafting.
Take a tour or not to tour?
Throughout Cameron Highlands there will be tour desks offering a variety of tours from half day- full day covering all the activities in the area. Prices are constant ( but check a few to be sure) so select who you feel most comfortable with. Tours are transported in mini-vans so groups won’t be overwhelming.
Tours are a great way to get around Cameron Highlands which has tight and difficult roads and the tour guides know how to avoid the crowds. However, some tours can feel rushed/ spend too long at places with limited interest. One way to avoid this would be to consider hiring a taxi for the day.
Cameron Highlands has accommodation suitable for the budget to the more expensive traveller. It is one of the more budget friendly locations in Malaysia.